tv MSNBC Live With Thomas Roberts MSNBC September 30, 2015 10:00am-12:01pm PDT
that have been made there over the last 13 years. when it comes to policy decisions, i don't have a lot of to news to make in this regard. but there are two observations i have, the first is that the president when announcing these decisions in the past, when it comes to our military commitment to afghanistan, has routinely noted that the conditions on the ground influence that policy process. and so i would expect that that would be the case in this circumstance as well. at the same time, we have always warned against the inclination to essentially make snap decisions on policy, almost literally overnight. and so that's why we're going to continue to monitor the efforts by the afghan government and afghan security forces to retake
kandus. and that will factor into a longer-term assessment of the conditions on the ground, which will influence a longer-term policy decision that the president will have to make. >> reporter: has the president received those recommendations from commanders in any kind of a formal way as of this time? >> i don't have an update in terms of the kind of communication between the commander and chief and the commanders on the ground. but as you know, josh, the president does receive regular briefings and regular updates from his military commanders through the chain of command. and that certainly will continue. >> reporter: and in the united nations today, the prime minister abbas said he's no longer bound by agreements with israel. they are going to start pursuing legal means to pursue palestinian statehood and are basically abandoning the direct negotiations approach that has been your position for a very long time now. so what is the u.s. response to the palestinians dismissing that
approach? >> well, i believe that prime minister abbas is speaking right as i walked out here, so i don't have direct response to what he's said. i will just say as a general matter that the united states has long been and continues today to be committed to achieve ing -- that the palestinians and israelis deserve. we described the resolution of this conflict as a two-state solution that results in two states for two peoples with a sovereign, viable and independent palestinian state living side by side with israel. that's been our position for some time and continues to be our position today. julia? >> reporter: going back to russia's involvement in syria, you just told josh that the defense department is reviewing this action. the deputy defense secretary told lawmakers on the hill today that russia's move was alarming and aggressive and has come before discussions that they
were promised to have on de-conflicting. is that same level of surprise being shared by the white house? >> i didn't see those particular comments. i think what is clear is that we have known for quite some time, and i say we, i'm including all of you, because we've had active public discussions in here about the significant deployment of military assets and personnel by the russians in syria. so i don't think it's particularly surprising that -- that russia is using those new military capabilities. particularly in light of their long-standing efforts to prop up the assad regime. and in light of the continuing weakness of the assad regime, in terms of their ability to control territory inside that
country, the russians felt that they need to ramp up their efforts. and the reason that i think the second datapoint that i would remind you of is that there's also a reason that both president putin and president obama have prioritized and agreed on the need for operational, tactical level conversations to de-conflict military operations inside of syria. you would need to have conversations to de-conflict military activities inside of syria if you didn't have plans for military operations inside of syria. so the point is that u.s. military officials have been in touch with their russian counterparts to set up those conversations, and i would expect that those conversations will take place in short order. >> reporter: so yes, president obama and president putin
discussed the need for conversations to de-conflict, but during that hour and a half conversation they had at the united nations, did anything, did president obama get any kind of indication from president putin about the timing of these strikes or the targets? or was this something left completely off the table? >> well, i think -- i that there's not an operational level in the conversation between the two presidents. those operational conversations are the kinds of conversations that both presidents expect their military officials to engage in. like i said, the united states has been in touch with russian military officials to begin those tactical, practical level conversations to ensure that our military activities and russian military activities are properly de-conflicted. >> reporter: another question, on the hill yesterday lawmakers reached a compromise on the
annual defense authorization bill. and they said they would use $90 billion from special war funds to avoid sequestration. would the white house oppose this bill for sequestration for defense but not other programs? >> i think that we would oppose the bill for the reasons that you have described. because that's an irresponsible way to fund our national defense priorities. even republicans in congress have referred to this as a slush fund. so this is not a partisan response. in fact, we know that this is, actually, a view that is shared by the republicans on capitol hill. i would also point to you, direct you to the statement that was released by the ranking member of the senate armed services committee, jack reid, a westpoint graduate from rhode island. and according to his news release he said, the use of
emergency war funds does not realistically support our armed forces. i cannot sign this conference report because it fails to irresponsibly fix the sequester and support the troops that they deserve. this position by senator reid is the position that president obama has indicated as well. that's why the president got this bill vetoed. >> thank you. >> let's move around. justin? >> reporter: just real quick on russia, based on your language, is it fair to say that the u.s. wasn't given or didn't have any of these de-conflicting conversations or conversations about coordination before the air strikes began? >> it is fair to say that u.s. officials had already been in touch with their russian counterparts to set up those meetings. but it is accurate to say that those de-confliction
conversations have not occurred. but i would expect they will begin in short order. >> reporter: and when those conversations start, is it merely going to be russia or the u.s. saying we plan to act in this area, so your military interests will be safe. or will there be any sort of coordination in efforts from the u.s. military? >> well, i think it's hard to prejudge at this point exactly what the conversations look like, other than that they will abide for the description i have used here for a couple weeks now. these are going to be practical, tactical level conversations. and we have long said that we would welcome constructive russian contributions to our counter-isil campaign. so i certainly would welcome russian coordination, but the purpose of the conversations is to ensure that our military activities and the military activities of our coalition partners are effectively and safely de-conflicted from any
military operations that the russians may be planning. >> hi, everybody. i'm thomas roberts. you're listening to white house press secretary josh earnest at the briefing discussing the major breaking news we have been following overseas. russian air strikes in syria. this is a significant show of force from russia in its alleged fight against isis. brian williams is following the breaking news for us and joins me now. >> thank you, thomas. we have been talking about this and looking at it all day. let's go quickly to the white house with nbc's kristen welker in reaction to this all day. and it's just been that, reacting to this news from overseas. kristen, good afternoon. >> reporter: brian, good afternoon. two highlights i want to point out from josh earnest's briefing so far. he said that u.s. officials have been in contact with russian officials. and that the goal of those conversations is to work out how they can de-conflict their military operations. that's washington speak for essentially making sure that if
russia is launching air strikes and if the u.s. is launching air strikes, that's there no mistake in the skies. the other thing i want to point out is that josh said it's too early to tell what this specific target is of the air strikes that we are seeing from russia. but he said that d.o.d. officials are looking into that right now trying to determine exactly who is being hit. of course, russia said that they are targeting isis but some u.s. officials have questioned that, suggesting that this is not necessarily an isis stronghold. so this the real goal here on the part of putin to prop up assad. we know that president obama and president putin have startling different views about what should happen to assad. president putin believes assad is the key to fighting isis where president obama would like to see assad go as quickly as possible. so those are two headlines out of the briefing. this is undoubtly an escalation in terms of russia's military
engagement. the administration underscoring the point that russia has been slowly building up its military engagement in syria. and what we are seeing today is a ramping up of that effort. the u.s., by the way, in its coalition partners, some 65 countries have also launched a series of air strikes in syria and in iraq as they try to defeat and destroy and dismantle isis. brian? >> kristen welliker at the whit house. let's go to michael mcfall now. i found it interesting that josh earnest said that russia will not be able to achieve a military solution in syria. and he cited as part of his argument, the fact that the u.s. was unable to achieve a military solution in iraq. >> and i think that was interesting that he used that analogy. and i would also say that so far
our ability, the coalition, to achieve a military outcome, a successful military outcome in seer yyria has not succeeded as. so the addition of russian air power also is unlikely to change things on the ground in syria. >> let's talk about the vladimir putin you know and what part of his psyche do you find very familiar here given the news we're talking about today. >> well, a couple things, both about tactics and strategy. on strategy, it is clear that he wants to support assad. he believes that it is a mistake to undermine the assad regime in syria. he's been saying that for four years, by the way, that's not changed. i heard him say it personally many times when i was the u.s. ambassador. but what is changed is he is now upped the ante in terms of trying to support his allie in syria. he's been doubling down now, he's tripled down in terms of bringing military air power to
try to defend him. what's not clear is you have just reported is who he's actually targeting. they say they are targeting isis but the preliminary reports out of syria is that, in fact, they targeted other opposition groups. time will tell. we'll be able to figure that out, but that will be very disturbing, very troubling if in his first four-way into this fight he didn't go after isis but somebody else. >> are we looking at a fairly large chance of a mistake of cross signals between the u.s. and russia here? >> yes, i think it's very dangerous. i was just at the pentagon on monday talking to senior officials there in charge of this effort at de-conflicting. they were just getting underway. and now this that is happened. and now it's always dangerous when you have these kinds of forces fighting the same place. by the way, this has not happened probably since world war ii with respect to the united states and russia.
and, you know, mistakes can happen. mistargeting can happen, too. i look for the next story being about civilian casualties from russian bombing. that's going to be inevitable for them because they just have not fought in a place like this for a long, long time. >> given your expertise in the region and with this leader, specifically vladimir putin, how would you get out of this? >> i don't have a good answer for you on that, brian. i think they are going to be there for a long time. probably not very active. i think it will be more op episodic. but i don't see a near-term solution. i don't see it for us as well, let me be clear, and i think we'll be talking about this tragic civil war for a long time. >> final question on that is, do you -- when you hear putin talk about isis, the mess of isis, do you look at this as a missed
opportunity that truly it is a common enemy, is it not? >> it is a common enemy. and i agree entirely with president putin that we -- isis needs to be defeated. the lost opportunity in my view is when i was in the government four years ago when there were tens of thousands of peaceful protestors in syria. isis was not in syria. and we were trying to work with the russians for a political transition back then. that we failed back then has led to this mess now. and part of that, part of the responsibility of that is putin, simply doubling down, supporting assad. it hasn't worked for four years. and up to this point. and i don't think it's going to work in the future. >> michael mcfaul, former u.s. am bar baambassador to the russn relations. thomas roberts, we'll turn it back over to you. >> thank you very much.
we're also going to dig into what is the military investment of russia in syria? specifically talking about the naval port city of tartus. we'll take you there and show y exactly what that is. we'll have much more when msnbc continues. ♪ the way i see it, you have two choices; the easy way or the hard way. you could choose a card that limits where you earn bonus cash back. or, you could make things easier on yourself. that's right,
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russia will not succeed in imposing a military solution on syria anymore than the united states was successful in imposing a military solution on iraq a decade ago. >> so there we have josh earnest just moments ago. the white house press briefing is continuing, but he's fielding many questions on syria after russia opens air strikes inside syria's borders, intended against isis, but there are lots of questions surrounding the intentions of russia and vladimir putin. something that john mccain
specifically brought up today on capitol hill. >> it was perfectly clear what russia's intentions are. to prop up bashar al assad, the father of isis. to make sure they have a secure base in the region. >> nbc's courtney coobey is here with more. brief us on what we know so far and also about the geographic locations of where these air strikes happened. >> reporter: so far the only air strikes that the u.s. is confirming that they know about was in an area called talbisa outside of homs. the u.s. coalition is operating primarily in the north and in the eastern part of syria. that's where isis or isil is really operating. that's where isis has a very stronghold. they have a lot of land. they have taken over and are holding a large swath of land.
homs, on the other hand, is on the west side of the country near where the russians have their warm water port. it's over where they have a large military build-up. and it is over closer to damascus where, of course, bashar al assad is maintaining his seat of power. so to give you a sense of why the u.s. military officials and defense officials i'm speaking to don't believe that this was actually a strike against isis, there's really no isis in that area. the u.s. coalition is not conducting strikes there. the russians, on the other hand, since they put in their military facilities there and brought in their aircraft, their drones and whatnot, they have been flying with the u.s. military calls fam flights in this exact same area where the air strikes took place. so it is really not a huge surprise to people who have been watching this that this is where the russians would carry out some of their first strikes in this homs area. but there's no isis there.
this is primarily an area where there's syrian opposition forces as opposed to the isis, the terrorists that the u.s. coalition are strike against. >> courtney, stand by for me as we bring in the conversation with michael kaye, a former british advisor with the min stir of defense in the u.k. you are very familiar with this region but also specifically as courtney just brought up, the warm water port area of tartus and why russia is so invested with that area of syria. >> absolutely. there's a lot of evidence that putin is propping up assad. the real question is, why is he doing that? and the answer, i think, lies economically and militarily. if we cast our minds back to march 2014, specifically with the land-grab on crimea, which happened with rapid pace, there is a seaport on crimea where the black sea naval capability live as well as the air capability. and the significance of that is
that it gives putin access to the mediterranean sea. this is out to the atlantic and then down south to the middle east. and that's absolutely critical. the world bank have already said that putin's economy is going to contract by 3.8% in 2015. so this is absolutely vital to putin protecting his sea lines of communication. now going to tartus with the demise of the soviet union, now we have russia. putin has very few assets outside of the motherland, but one of them is a naval facility based on the western side of syria called tartus naval base. now it can't take an aircraft carrier but it can take a military cruiser. if we project further, i think what also is important is that assad is a long-time allie of putin. putin has also had a major jihadist problem up here. so putin wants to prevent or
sees assad as the buffer between the jihadist group in syria. so that is why he's concentrating on using assad to prevent the jihadist movement as well. so i think there's a number of reasons economically and militarily why putin is propping up the assad regime. >> you have a great look here geographically how this chess game is playing out and the vested interest russia has with syria. we'll wait to find out more about the air strike locations. at 2:00 p.m. we expect the secretary of defense to be giving us a press briefing from the pentagon. again, we'll carry that for you live and check in now with amman m
mohvelein. >> reporter: russia has come out, at least to some i've been speaking to, saying that they believe where russia was targeting alone determines the fact that they are not going after isis but going after they consider to be those rebels fighting against the assad regime. for that, that complicates matters given the fact that some of the rebels are the same exact rebels that the united states wants to try to equip and moderate. the presence of russia now in this battlefield is certainly going to complicate things, not just from the military point of view as we have been hearing from analysts and experts but from the diplomatic point of view in trying to reach the negotiations. we know that secretary of state kerry and russian minister lavrov are meeting with other leaders with the gulf leaders backing the rebels. but there are a lot of sticking points. the main question is going to be about the transition process that everybody says has to get underway. there is no clear timeline for that and more importantly no clear indication as to who will go first in that timeline.
does president bashar al assad lead first or do they try to fight isis while the president remains in syria? all the issues are still on the table, thomas. >> okay, ayman reporting there. is the biggest question now that ash carter needs to answer for a lot of the reporters that will be there today about vladimir putin and just the basic question of when someone shows you who they are, believe them. >> it's funny, one u.s. official i spoke to earlier said deconfliction is a huge issue right now. the u.s. and coalition have been flying air strikes and isr missions over syria for almost a year or for about a year now. now russia added into the picture, at what point could there potential will i be a problem in the air with some sort of an altercation or somewhere with the aircraft coming into contact with each other? so i spoke about that this morning and said, what efforts
are being made right now to ensure that now the russians are flying, there's some deconfliction mechanism. and they said, it doesn't matter that we de-conflict with the russians because we have no reason to belief what they are saying. so de-confliction with them is almost a moot point. this russian general showed up at the embassy in baghdad, literally knocked on the door with a notification, a written statement saying, the russians will be conducting air strikes in syria in the next hour. make sure you don't have any aircraft or anything in the area. so de-confliction is essentially, at this point, it's not happening at all. >> you make great points about the fact that, yes, we do need to work with an honest broker if we're going to be having the ongoing prioritized conversations, the de-confliction, meaning the goal to work out that no mistakes are in the skies between russia and
the u.s. did you confirm, did the u.s. facilitate and move forward with their operations in spite of this notification? >> yes. so far today there's only one air strike that i've been able to confirm. the u.s. military, both here at u.s. central command in florida and forward in iraq at the headquarters in iraq, they all insist there's been no change, there's been no halting to any of the air operations in iraq or syria because of the russian activity there. but again, today all that we have seen is the one strike. now keep in mind, they have activities around homs and there was no aerial altercation, but there's only one strike we have been able to confirm. >> courtney kube, a producer for us at the pentagon and i know you'll be busy in 30 minutes again with ash carter giving a
briefing at the pentagon with the secretary of defense. we'll have it for everyone live. another big story we are following for you here is what is happening along the eastern seaboard of the u.s. as all eyes are on hurricane joaquin, which is expected to form in some time over the weekend hit land. our meteorologists will have the live update for us again and nbc news now confirming the pope did have a meeting with kim davis. she's the kentucky clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. so what did they talk about? things we build and it doesn't even fly. we build it in classrooms and exhibit halls, mentoring tomorrow's innovators. we build it raising roofs, preserving habitats and serving america's veterans. every day, thousands of boeing volunteers help make their communities the best they can be. building something better for all of us.
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of the u.s. this weekend. meteorologist rafael miranda joins me now. so rafe, tell me about the path so far. we do expect a 2:00 p.m. update, correct? >> yes. the path will be updated around 5:00 p.m., but as we get the models in, really every few hours, the path takes a little bit of a jog in our minds of what may happen with joaquin. it's a very complicated storm and millions need to be watching this from maine through the carolinas as we head over the next few days. the forecast will change. i'm just telling you that now. but here's the very latest. the very healthy looking hurricane now trying to form a little eye here undergoing rapid intensification across a very warm waters near the bahamas. right now a category 1 storm with winds near 80 miles per hour. the movement is key, drifting to the southwest, only around 6 miles per hour. so joaquin has plenty of time to suck up that warmth, that moisture from the warm waters here. and that's fuel for a hurricane. so we are expecting more strengthening over the next two days. and not a lot of movement here.
by saturday morning, we're looking at a major hurricane, a category 3. and then that's the crucial, critical timeline. where does joaquin go after that major hurricane? one theory is it looks like it may take a jog to the west and move inland across the carolinas. that would be sunday morning to sunday afternoon as a potential strong category 2 or category 3 storm. or if it parallels the storm, it could move closer to the delmarva peninsula and around new york city as a weaker storm. but still the potential is there for a messy setup. this is the current spaghetti model and this trend keeps changing day by day. it is for inland landfall around virginia, the carolinas, perhaps. the out to sea scenario we tracked yesterday looks less and less likely with every computer model run. besides the wind, we are dealing with the potential of flooding rains. you can see one forecast model, rainfall up to over a foot in some spots from the carolinas
right through new england. this is a very messy time period later on this weekend into early next week. and, of course, the latest update coming at 2:00 will tell us if joaquin has gotten stronger. and i expect it will be gaining strength. >> do you think that will be upgraded to a cat 2 or a long way off from that? >> we'll get there. i don't know if it will happen today but maybe tomorrow, in fact. >> rafe, thank you. we'll see you here again shortly. in other news today, kim davis is making headlines once again. kentucky's governor wants a lawsuit filed against him by davis to be dismissed saying the county clerk's legal claims demonstrate the absurdity of her position. meanwhile, nbc news has confirmed that davis met with pope francis in washington last week. now you'll recall that she was jailed for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to legal same sex couples in kentucky. she talked about the visit and what the pope told her in an interview earlier today on "good morning america."
>> i put my hand out and he reached and he grabbed it. and i -- i hugged him and he hugged me. and he said, thank you for your courage. >> the liberty council, the conservative legal nonprofit that has represented davis, released this picture. as you can see there, it is of two rosaries that they say the pope gave to davis and her husband. joining me now, nbc's hallie jackson in washington, d.c. hallie, let's talk more about what the pope and davis discussed and also why was everybody kept out of the loop on this until the pope got back to the vatican? >> reporter: right. not surprising, thomas, that we didn't necessarily hear about the meeting with kim davis. remember the pope made an unscheduled stop at the little sisters of the poor when he was here in washington last week. now, then we did actually hear about that meeting the day that it happened. the night that it happened, rather. but it was another instance of the pope meeting with someone, meeting with a group, focusing on this issue of religious
liberty and as the vatican said in that meeting with little sisters, expressing a sign of support for them. kim davis says that's what the pope told her. she says, he told her to stay strong. she said, he said pray for me. which is what we have heard from pope francis repeatedly, especially last week in his trip to the u.s. and as you heard her sort of appear in that soundbyte, she was very emotional saying she was humbled and crying. it was incredibly an emotional, intense meeting for her. the pope was speaking in english, not his native language. so a you remember number of pie hearing, i asked the spokesperson about this minutes ago, and he said, the pope only meets with people he wants to meet with. so the pope asked about this on his plane ride home, you might remember, about this idea of
conscientious objectives. so a lot of interesting developments on this one today, including that kim davis nugget you were just talking about, the governor asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed there in kentucky. >> we'll see how that goes. and kim davis and her husband are not catholics, correct? >> pentecostal, right. they are new icons of the religious right because of the stand kim davis has taken in kentucky county. >> really interesting as we look over pop francis and the fact that he's spreading seeds everywhere. you don't know where they are going to pop lapopulate, but ha jackson, thank you. we'll talk about the update on syria has russia opens fire. air strikes inside the country of syria. now the question is, are they
mainly focused at isis or taking aim at rebel groups? those that are opposed to bashar al assad. we'll have a briefing at the top of the hour from the pentagon. "♪ ♪jake reese, "day to feel alive"♪ ♪jake reese, "day to feel alive"♪ could protect you from diabetes? what if one sit-up could prevent heart disease? one. wishful thinking, right? but there is one step you can take to help prevent another serious disease. pneumococcal pneumonia. if you are 50 or older,
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ramp up their support for president assad. they have been supporting him for quite some time. and it's clear that they have made a significant military investment now in further propping him up. >> senator john mccain delivered an empassioned speech on the senate floor today saying president obama needs to reassert american leadership abroad. here's what the senator told my colleague, andrea mitchell, last sure on msnbc. >> it was perfectly clear what russia's intentions were, to prop up bashar al assad, the father of iisis. >> we are waiting on the 2:00 p.m. press briefing by ash carter. we'll bring that to you live. kevin mccarthy is the republican hoping to take john boehner's job as speaker of the house after john boehner retires, but on the day boehner
scheduled the vote for new republican leadership, mccarthy finds himself in a new controversy. last night the current majority leader may have revealed more than he wished about the congressional benghazi investigation in an interview with fox news. take a look, if. >> everybody thought hillary clinton was unbeatable, right? but we put together a benghazi special committee, a select committee. what are her numbers today? her numbers are dropping. why? because she's untrustable. but no one would have known any of that had happened had we not thought that -- >> mccarthy was trying to defend the conservative record of the current republican leadership of the house. however, the clinton campaign is already calling this a, quote, damming display of honesty. here's what senator claire mccaskill of missouri had to say to andrea mitchell. >> what he really did, andrea, is lay out for the american people that this is taxpayer-funded political hitjob, and the most disgusting thing about it is that it's
being done on the deaths of four brave americans. >> luke russert is on capitol hill and is joining us now. this controversy is unfolding the same day we're getting a new batch of clinton e-mails released. so how badly did the majority leader step in it here? >> from the aides i have spoken to or close to leadership, i think the words of one of them was, quote, yikes. and the reason why there is a yikes is because john boehner, the house speaker, has gone out of his way since the inception of this special committee, to say the focus was squarely on benghazi and the four americans who lost their lives there. by appointing tray goudy, a former prosecutor from south carolina, somebody who tries to look through everything from the prism of legality and the law, he was trying to go beyond the usual attempts by his house colleagues to throw mud at the tires of hillary clinton to hurt her electoral possibilities. so this is certainly going to
take a hit. it gives democrats a lot of ammunition. remember, the biggest day for the benghazi committee is october 22nd, thomas, when hillary clinton is stated to, in fact, testify before that committee. they are going to see between now and then how much this sticks and how much it hurts, but there are already democrats on capitol hill echoing claire mccaskill's words, adam shift from the intel committee saying the benghazi committee needs to be dismantled because it is a clear hit job, if. >> thank you, luke russert. we are just hours away from what could be a government shutdown, but it looks like this would be avoided temporarily. a bill to fund the government after midnight tonight has passed the senate. now it is the house' turn to approve it, at least through december 11th. house republicans, including oversight committee chair jason chaffitz, are looking to strip planned parenthood of its
funding. >> i would probably vote against that. we have a debt crisis in this country. i hate doing these continued resolutions. and if you're going to continue to pour money into an organization like planned parenthood that doesn't need it, guys like me are going to have to vote no. >> so we'll keep an eye on the action of the voting today on the hill, breaking developments as they happen. and we'll continue to follow breaking news out of syria where russia conducted their first air strikes against isis. at 2:00 p.m., defense secretary ash carter is going to be briefing everyone live. we will have it for you right here on msnbc. don't go anywhere. want bladder leak underwear that moves like you do?
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and help stop joint damage. enbrel, the number one rheumatologist-prescribed biologic. all right. on to politics now and donald trump headed back to new hampshire tonight but he's not getting good news from a brand new nbc news/"wall street journal" poll among latino voters. when asked about the view of the
candidates, trump at the bottom with 72% viewing him negatively. the trump family is gracing the cover of new "people" magazine looking at their family life and his wife. trump himself was back on the fox news channel last night just a week after saying that he wouldn't a pyre on that network anymore. and was asked about whether he needed to change tone. >> am i fair to say that in order for you to win the republican nomination that you're going to have to change your style and be a bit kinder and more mature? is that a fair question? >> well, i think it's fair. i think the word mature is not appropriate but i think it's certainly fair. i think that, you know, as you know, i'm leading every poll and most very big. it's not a question of nice. i think i'm a nice person. >> on the good news front for the trump campaign, he hold it is lead in a brand new "usa today/suffolk university poll.
just over two hours away now from the scheduled execution of death row inmate richard glooup. convicted in the 1997 death and beating death, excuse me, of his death and a request for a stay of execution is pending with the u.s. supreme court. if he is executed, it's the first in oklahoma history since the supreme court upheld the state's three-drug lethal injection formula and this follows the overnight execution of a female prisoner in georgia, first time that state has taken 0 a woman -- given her the death penalty in 70 years. kelly gissendaner. he was convicted of orchestrating the murder of her hands at the hands of lover. a witness described the final moments. >> she was very, very emotional. she was crying. >> sobbing. >> and then she was sobbing.
and then broke into song, as well as into a number of apologies. calling her ex-husband this amazing man who died because of me. >> the execution was carried out despite a last-minute plea for clemen clemency. the u.s. supreme court refused to intervene. now my colleague francis on the bigger picture of death penalties in the u.s. >> certainly a spotlight on the death penalty and the debate again after the execution of kelly gissendaner. we want to bring you up to date on the state of the death penalty so far in this country. 21 people have been executed in 2015 between january and now. gissendaner in georgia just a latest to receive lethal injection. take a look at the bigger picture. when talking about where people were executed this year, nationwide, in the state of texas, ten. in look at missouri had six. georgia have three.
florida one and oklahoma one. and nearly two dozen executions scheduled for the remainder of year including convicted murderer richard glossup in oklahoma scheduled for today. 11 set to take place in the month of october. two of which have reportedly been stayed. now, it is important to note here taking a look at the graph as far as the rate of executions f. you look here, 1976, you see the rise up to 1999. that's with as many as 98 people were executed across the country but since then, look how it goes down. certainly a decline leading up to this year. a steady decline over that time period. we have to see how the rest of the year pans out. you saw the calendar. several executions ahead of us and one scheduled in oklahoma 2 1/2 hours from now, thomas. >> all right. thank you very much. when we come back more on the lead story today. the breaking news about the
russian air strikes inside syria. secretary of defense ash carter is going to be briefing the media any minute from now. stay with us. ment can protect capital long term. active management can tap global insights. active management can take calculated risks. active management can seek to outperform. because active investment management isn't reactive. it's active. that's the power of active management.
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aleve. all day strong. hi, everybody. we begin this hour of msnbc live with major breaking news overseas. we are awaiting a briefing from defense secretary ash carter. carter expected to speak just minutes from now at the pentagon. this is after confirmation russia launched air strikes inside syria's borders. it is a bold move by the russian president vladimir putin. syria being his close mideast ally. here's white house press secretary josh earnest last hour. >> we are seeing the russians ramp up their support for president assad. they have been supporting him for quite sometime and it's clear they have made a significant military investment now in further propping him up.
>> so this is support for assad. is russia targeting isis or are they going after rebel group that is are trying to topple assad? secretary of state john kerry gave an impassioned speech at the u.n. today. here's what he had to say about the fight against isis. >> we must not and will not be confused in the fight against isil with support of assad. moreover, we have made clear we would have grave concerns should russia strike areas where isil and lakt-affiliated are targets not operating. strikes of that kind would question rush why's real intentions fighting isil or protecting the assad regime. >> looking at this would think that grave concerns is an understatement on that. we want to nbc news national security producer joining me live from the pentagon. courtney, we know you have to go shortly to the briefing by ash carter but explain what we know
about the geographic low kags of where the air strikes happened and correspond with what we understand are isis territories. >> so basically, right now, isis has a large swath of syria as their territory. they have taken it over and they're holding it. it's a large location that goes -- sort of sweeps across the country from the north all along the east over towards iraq. what we're seeing these air strikes, these air strikes by the russians today are over on the western side of the country. that's the -- over by tartis that the russians control latakia and just outside of homs. so what do we know about that? isis area, the isis areas seeing the coalition strikes, the u.s. air strikes taking place, targeting isis, isil, what we saw the russians today targeting an area primarily syrian
opposition. no isis over there, very little anyway. what it is also near, of course, the russian interests and n that area. russia built up a large military build-near latakia. they have aircraft, tanks, hundreds of personnel there. we don't know how many they have total. but they also are there -- they want to protect tartus. their warm-water port. the russians are saying they're targeting isis but given the fact there's no isis in the area, that just doesn't seem to be the case. so defense officials here today say, look, we can take what russia says with a grain of salt but they're doing one thing and saying another. so we don't really know. that's the big question hoping to hear from secretary carter and just a few moments here is what is it that the russians struck today? did they take out tanks, going after personnel, were they striking buildings, command and control? we really don't know what they
actually struck versus what they're telling us, the russians telling us that they were hitting. >> thank you. just to explain what you are looking at on the left-hand side, this is the podium inside the pentagon where we expect ash carter to begin his briefing any minute. on the right-hand side of the screen, aerial footage coming in that shows the different target areas where air strikes happened inside syria today. reportedly with russia going after isis territories but there's a question about these geographic locations and what these strikes were truly all about. as we all know, vladimir putin is just freshly back to the kremlin after being here in new york city where he gave his own speech in front of the u.n. jn assembly saying that we health it very important that they back the current syrian government. nbc news white house correspondent kristen welker is standing by for us an joins us now. in the 1:00 p.m. hour, we saw josh earnest taking questions of foreign policy and military
concerns right now. not just with what's going on in syria, but also, kuchb does, afghanistan, and primarily about syria. explain what we does about any type of military officials conversing back and forth about these strike locations and what it means to american interests. >> reporter: a couple of headlines came out of that briefing, thomas. the first is that white house press secretary josh earnest did, in fact, confirm to your question that russian officials did inform u.s. officials before they started to launch the air strikes today. it's believed that that notification came about an hour, though, before the air strikes falling so that's a concern. not a lot of heads up. earnest now saying that talks between the u.s. and russia focus on ways to deconflict the situation. that's essentially a fancy way of saying if russia is launching air strikes, the u.s. is launching air strikes, they want to make sure they're not
engaging with each other in the skies and no mistake that happens. doesn't further escalate the situation and the third headline out of this is something that courtney touching on is that d.o.d. officials determining what was hit. why that so important? russia's saying they're, in fact, targeting isis but some within the administration skeptical and this they're targeting opposition forces as you have also mapped out and if that's the case it suggests that putin is more focused on propping up assad than fighting isis. the u.s. welcomes russia fighting isis. they disagree sharply, though, on the issue of assad. president putin believe that is assad is the key to fighting isis. president obama, the obama administration, believed that the key is removing assad in a political manner. now, when president obama met with president putin at the u.n. earlier this week, we are told that both leaders did agree that there needs to be some type of political reorganization so
that's something that the white house is pointing to today as measured progress. they're also responding, thomas, to criticism of senator john mccain who's pointed to this escalation we're seeing in syria as a fact that the u.s. posture in syria isn't robust enough, josh pressing back saying, look, russia is increasing -- i'll take it back to you. >> forgive me. we'll take it to defense secretary ash carter. >> let's see. i have several topics i want to cover today. let me begin with syria. last week, i observed from this podium as i had observed privately to russian minister of defense shogu the week prior that there is a logical contradiction in the russian position and now its actions in syria. russia states an intent to fight isil on the one hand and to
support bashar al assad and his regime on the other. fighting isil without pursuing a parallel political transition only risks escalating the civil war in syria. and with it, the very extremism and instability that moscow claims to be concerned about and aspire to fighting. so this approach, that approach, is tantamount as i said then to pouring gasoline on the fire. in contrast, our position is clear that a lasting defeat of isil and extremism in syria can only be achieved in parallel with the political transition in syria. and we'll continue to insist on the importance of simultaneously
pursuing these two objectives. now, i would hope that russia would join us in pursuing these objectives which they claim to share in parallel rather than in a sequence that cannot succeed. during my phone call with the minister, i told him i was prepared to send a team to meet with russian defense counterparts at a location to be agreed upon to ensure that we avoid any inadvertent incidents over russian air space. i directed my team to proceed with exactly such a meeting as soon as possible. that is in the next few days. now, our goals for this meet rg the following. to facilitate the flow of information between coalition forces and russian elements that will help us maintain the safety of our personnel in the region. which is critical. to ensure that any additional
russian actions do not interfere with our coalition's efforts to degrade and defeat isil. and to clarify that broader u.s. security commitments in the region remain unchanged. as i have said before, we will deliver a lasting defeat to isil. with a global coalition of over 60 nations, we're taking the fight to isil across the physical, virtual and ideological battle space. the coalition is conducted over 7,100 air strikes, hampering isil's movement and operations and systematically targeting this terrorist group's leadership. and the coalition will continue to fly missions over iraq and syria as planned as we did today in support of our international mission to degrade and destroy isil. as we pursue the defense level talks with russia on syria i want to be absolutely clear that these talks will not in any way diminish our strong condemnation
of russian aggression in ukraine. or change our sanctions and security support in response to those destabilizing actions. on that subject, the facts remain. if russia wants to end its international isolation and be considered a global power, it must stop its aggression in eastern ukraine, end its occupation and attempted ann annexation of crimea and live up to its commitments under the minsk. now the budget impasse we find ourselves facing here in washington today. it appears at this hour at least that we will avoid the trauma of a government shutdown for now. but that's not enough. it's not enough for our troops, not enough for the defense of our country. because this is more -- it is
about more than just the short term damage of a temporary shutdown. it's also about the accumulating and lasting damage that comes from a paycheck to paycheck approach to budgeting for the defense of our country. we need to innovate. we need to continue to attract the best people to develop the next generation of capabilities and to meet the current generation of threats. yet again, we face the real risk that political gridlock will hold us back. without a negotiated budget solution in which everyone comes together at last, we will again return to sequestration level funding. reducing to the lowest real level in a decade. despite the fact that members of both parties agree that this result will harm national security. the alternative to a budget deal, a long-term continuing
resolution, is merely sequester level funding under a different name. and the longer the continuing resolution is, the worse it becomes resulting in a $38 billion deficit in resources for our military if congress chooses to pursue this path for the full year. now, the department of defense has done its best to manage through this prolonged period of budget uncertainty, seven years in a row of continuing resoluti resolutions, making painful trade-offs of the joint force. but the world has not stood still. russia and china have advanced their new capabilities and new imperatives such as ensuring a lasting defeat of isil have emerged. in this kind of security environment, we need to be dynamic and responsive. what we have under sequestration is a straight jacket.
we would be forced to make irresponsible reductions when our choices should be considered carefully and strategically. making these kinds of cuts is inefficient and wasteful to taxpayers and industry. it's dangerous for our strategy and, frankly, it's embarrassing in front of the world. most importantly, most importantly to me, for our men and women serving our national defense and their families, it adds an absolutely undeserved element of uncertainty about their future. and finally, as we plan for the force of the future, i note the reports that will be submitted by service leaders today to the chairman with their recommendations on positions they plan to open to women as well as any exceptions to opening all combat specialties to women. when i myself review these
reports over coming months, i will be focused on the quality of information and the analysis behind the recommendations. i want to hear from everyone but i'm les interested in who said what but why they're saying it. and to be clear, i will carefully review the information and analysis from all four services and special operations command to make my final determination. as secretary of defense, i'm committed to seeing this through because attracting the best and staying the best means that wherever possible we must open ourselves to the talents and strengths of all americans who can contribute with excellence to our force. as i've said before, everyone who's able and willing to serve and can meet the standards we require should have the full opportunity to do so. thank you. i look forward to your questions on this or any other topics. >> mr. secretary, do you believe
based on what you have seen and heard today that russia has been targeting isil in the strikes that they took overnight, or do you believe instead that they attacked perhaps some other opposition forces that are -- have been waging war against i sad? and can you bring -- give us -- >> we have been observing the russian activities and i don't want to go into detail about that at this time. but the -- the reason -- one of the reasons why the russian position is contradictory is that the exactly the potential for them to strike as they may well have in places where, in fact, isil is not present. others are present. and this is one of the reasons why the result of this kind of action will inevitably simply be
to enflame the civil war in syria. and why, therefore, it is ill advised to take this kind of action and support of assad only without pursuing a political transition there and that's why we're trying to get them to that same position. but your question exposes exactly what is the fallacy in the russian approach and why it's doomed to failure. >> is that -- is that -- just want to make sure i understood your answer. are you saying then that the strikes were in a place where you believe there were no isil fighters and therefore leads you to that -- >> again, i want to be careful about confirming information. but it does appear that they were in areas where there
probably were not isil forces and that is precisely one of the problems with this whole approach. >> mr. secretary, you've been dealing with yourself with the russians for years. russian general shows up this morning at the embassy in baghdad and apparently reads you your people a note saying air strikes are going to begin in one hour. what do you make of that? is that as secretary of defense, is that acceptable military to military relations with you? and where does this leave you if you sit down and talk to the russian military about a way ahead? is this not a little bizarre? >> well, you are right. i have been tedealing with them for a listening time and this is not the behavior we should expect professionally from russian military professionally and that's one reason why i think it's a good thing to have an avenue of communication that is less unprofessional than a drop-in where we can talk about
professional defense matters but i think, also, and this is something that will occur in diplomatic channels, it is fortunate see if we can get russians in a position where they are coming to understand the contradiction in the position that they now have. and the possibility that by seeing a political transition and defeating extremism as something you have to pursue in parallel to succeed in syria, maybe they could make a constructive contribution. they're not on the path of the way they're acting now. >> what are your concerns for u.s. military pilots right now flying over syria? >> we're always concerned about the possibility of inadvertent incidents and lack of communication and so forth. that's why it's important to have communication in the air and that's the reason for the
talks. bill? >> mr. secretary, have you spoken -- why haven't you spoken with your russian counterpart? getting back to barbara's question, given the fact of a greater risk of u.s. pilots in syria without direct coordination and in any way with the russians are you taking actions to -- >> the next step -- phil, the next step and the next dialogue will be in the professional defense to defense channel, that's precisely our next step. that's the next step that defense minister shogu and i discussed when we talked. i do understand the secretary kerry's speaking to foreign minister lavrov. i think the discussions are good. this doesn't mean you're going to agree but it does mean you have the opportunity to try to clarify in this case for the
russians where i think they're making a mistake in how they're thinking through. >> you personally will speak again to your count eer part? >> i don't rule it out. i think the contacts are good. done it many years in the course of my career. that's not the next step, though. the next step is these talks which i are going to be -- >> mr. secretary -- >> sorry. >> quick question. >> women in combat, what about the reports, there are indications that the marines have asked for an exemption, a waiver, barring some women from -- women from some ground combat units, infantry units. is that true? >> let me just back up. i really don't want to characterize recommendations. there are no recommendations made to me yet. remember, the process here which is the services are doing analysis. what they owe to first the chairman and ultimately to me by the end of the year is their
analysis, their studies and their thoughts both about which specialties if any should be left closed to women and importantly how they intend to make any adaptation that is are required. there are many different aspects of this. it's all important and the only point i want to make at this juncture since it's some months before i -- these things make their way to me and i do want to give the chairman the time to -- as has been planned for him to look at them, the only point i wanted the make is i'm going to be very fact based and analysis based. i want to see the grounds upon which any actions that we take at the first of the year are going to be made. that's the frame in which i'm looking. >> in the summary that women are
lesslet lethal -- >> i'm not going to characterize before they come back to me. >> back to syria, as secretary of defense, were you notified that russia was conducting air strikes in syria? did you have the intelligence that the russians are moving towards that issue, towards that target? >> well, we have been watching their -- i think it's widely reported their deployment of aircraft. certainly, both in the conversations with our president and our secretary of state and in my conversations with minister shogu, they indicated a desire and an intention to conduct operations and then you heard about a communication this very morning about the specific activities that happened today. so that's the way that we have learned. >> just to follow up, sir, excuse me.
mr. secretary, quick follow-up. >> thank you. back to the deconfliction issue, is it important to tell the russians when we have air strikes. did we tell them? does that go both ways? >> let's see how -- let's see what event wauates from the conversations and the best kinds of information to exchange. but that's the purpose of the talks is to decide exactly what kinds of information it is important to exchange to avoid incidents. >> thank you. yesterday, secretary perry said that russia's involvement could be an opportunity for the united states. do you agree? >> what i said, it could be if they -- but not the form they conceive it, as they state it
and described it to me. i tried to instill that in the contradiction of saying we want to fight extremism and on the other hand supporting assad. we believe that those are in contradiction with one another. and that a position that would sustain perhaps two of russia's objectives in a different way but think'd have to change their position is one in which they fought extremism which we believe also obviously must be fought. but they backed simultaneously a transition from assad to a government that can end the civil war and preserve some level of decency and good order in the state of syria. but those things cannot occur in sequence. now, if they came to the position of trying to achieve those two objectives, a
political transition, and a fight against extremism in parallel, then i think our interests would have overlapping and then you have the possibility of cooperating. so i hope we get to that point but that would require a change from this current position which is as i said just not logical. the two pieces of it don't match up. >> mr. secretary, do you see -- >> mr. secretary, just going back to the timing, really quickly, since you just announced that the military to military talks were going to begin, you announced it yesterday, were you not surprised that the russians began their air strikes before the talks even started? and secondly, when the talks do start, how can that not slow down the u.s.-led campaign against isis? if you have to deconflict. >> they -- it gets back to the previous question. they have indicated now for quite sometime they would begin air operations and we have
agreed to get the talks under way agreeing on a mutually on a place and a time. we've agreed upon that now. those will get under way within days. and i think there'll be very constructive. to the second part of your question, we intend to continue to conduct the air operations, the entire coalition does, to combat isil and other extremists in syria as we have been doing. we don't intend to make any changes in our air operations. >> mr. secretary, the russian strikes is not an area where isis is present but others were present. if they're syrian opposition, what responsibility does the coalition have to protect those opposition forces, opposition fighters, from air strikes of russia? >> your question points up the
whole contradiction here in the russian position, which is that by taking on, by supporting assad and thereby seemingly taking on everybody who is fighting assad, you're taking on the whole rest of the country of syria. that is not our position. we believe that at least some parts of the anti-assad opposition belong as part of the political transition. going forward. so that's one of the reasons why, in fact, the central reason why russian approach here is doomed to fail and i hope that they come over to a point of view where they try to pursue their objectives in a different way that makes more sense. first of all. and second of all, is one in which we can share to some extent and therefore work in a
common way but we're not at that point yet and worth trying to get to that point. >> have a responsibility for that, protecting them as we have heard in the past? we have heard in the past, i believe you testified on the hill the coalition has a responsibility to protect the opposition forces, specifically the ones trained by the u.s. but the larger opposition forces, when's the coalition responsibility if they're coming under air strikes by the russians? it seems they are by the assad regime? >> we have conducted air operations against isil, al nusra and other targets. it is not our practice to conduct air operations against all those who are fighting assad. for the reason i have now -- i keep coming back to, which is that to simply defend assad and not to pursue a political
transition is only going to fuel the opposition and therefore the extremism and the violence. >> tony? >> let me ask you, get you on the record on the national defense authorization, you laid out the budget consequences of sequestration and cr. are you going to recommend to the president to veto the bill to go to the floor tomorrow? >> i and other advisers already have and he's indicated if it's presented to him in the form it appears it is going to be presented to him it is going to be vetoed. this is the national defense authorization act so yes. that is unchanged, tony. that's the same position. >> a message to the country who -- listening to you and the world is basically aflame in a lot of ways and basically recommending vetoing the defense policy bill. isn't that a contradiction? >> no. what we need, first of all, is an appropriations bill that funds the department. the authorization bill contains
some of the authorities. at the moment, the authorization bill makes no appropriations at all as you well know. number one. number two, it attempts to evade the question of overall fiscal responsibility with the so-called oco gimmick which is objectible to me and others in other agencies and i think ought to be to the taxpayer and then war fighter and others that are objectionable. we have proposed for several years now changes, reforms that extend from health care to force structure. to better -- to spend the defense dollar in areas where better national security benefit is obtained.
in the national defense authorization act, some of those reforms are key reforms, billions of dollars of years worth of reforms are disallowed, not authorized. that's not okay with me because that is taking dollars which i already regard as short for national defense and using them in a way which we, the department's leadership, has for several years determined is not in the national interest. so i need to be able to say to the taxpayer, both that we need every dollar we're given and that we're using it in the best possible way and the national defense authorization act, several provisions of it, longstanding, do not take into account when's the judgment of the department about reforms that we think are needed. so there's actually several reasons why this is not a good bill and these are not
mysteries. we have been very clear. right along. about all these things and so i don't think there's any doubt about what our position is with respect to the veto. >> thank you, mr. secretary. i have two quick questions on syria. the syrian opposition groups saying civilians were killed in the attacks and strikes by rush why and the syrian national coalition president is encouraging now more than ever a no-fly zone to protect civilians s. that being discussed here at the pentagon? and then, also, you had mentioned that the talks were going to be to avoid incidents and also to avoid actions that would interfere in the fight against isil. but isn't the fact that a russian general would come and ask the united states to stay out of the syrian air space, isn't that already interfering with the fight against isil? >> let's see. you got several things there. to get to the last part, just going to say it again. we intend to continue our air
operations unimpeded. i think you're asking about the possibility that the russian air strikes may have hit civilians. i cannot confirm that. and, you know, that would be yet again a reason why this kind of action by the russians is ill advised and will backfire. we are on the contrary as you know very careful to make sure that those whom we are targeting are isil, al nusra and other extremists of that kind and furthermore, we are exceptionally careful about trying to avoid civilian casualties. that's something we work hard at. all the coalition partners do and it's something that rirls a lot of care and practice and experience so this is -- again, i can't confirm that that
occurred. but if it occurred, it is yet another reason why this kind of russian action can and will backfire very badly on russia. i'd like to get them in a different place where we're more sensible place. >> mr. secretary, on the no-fly zone -- >> mr. secretary? are you confident the russians are acting in good faith or do you think perhaps they might be messing with you? >> i take my -- the russians at their word. there's no -- they're exceptionally clear of what they're saying and the actions reflect what they said they were going to do. some my problem is that i don't understand what they're doing. i think the -- my problem is that i think what they're doing is going to backfire and is counter productive. >> they said they were going to strike isil. do you believe they're striking isil? >> i want to make sure i get
around. >> yes, thank you. mr. secretary -- >> i'll come back to you. >> that's okay. somebody else will ask it probably. >> aside from the sequencing aspect that you talked about, the bombing of isil, and then working on a political transition away from assad, putting that aside for a moment, would you and your -- any other u.s. leaders welcome russian bombing, not only of isil but al nusra and of the other group that is are states led have bombed? would that be a good thing? >> i think the president made it clear. clear to anybody. if anybody who wants to join in the fight against isil or join in the coalition of 60 countries have made that same determination, this is something, an evil, that must be defeated. >> excuse me -- >> well, you're right. it's isil and other extremist
groups of the same ilk. yes. those are the ones that we and the coalition are combatting and obviously we welcome contributions to that and again if the russians change their approach to one that is -- doesn't have the contradiction that is this one does, that would be a basis of -- actually a welcome basis of cooperation and very easy to understand why the russians are concerned about isil. they have experience with islamist extremism, also. sad and bitter experience and i can well understand. on the other hand, this kind of action is only going to exacerbate that tendency to -- fsh them to find themselves in the bull's eye. >> secretary, time for one more. marcus? >> back in the acquisition sheet
you said there would be okay sy sigss of mid tier companies. we have been seeing that recently culminated with the purchase. there have been a lot of concerns of deals like this to eliminate competition. i was wondering if the mergers are starting to go too far. >> i can't comment on a particular case that's being determined at this time. and i do remember back then. what i said then and still believe is that it was important to avoid excessive consolidation in the defense industry to the point where we did not have multiple venders who could compete with one another on many programs and to the point where we had so-called vertical integration in companies to an extent that made competition
among some contractors for work on primes less competitive. so we do need a competitive marketplace to the extent that's possible. within the defense industry. we thought that then. i think that now. at the time, i indicated that i at this time in that role but i feel the same way now didn't welcome further consolidation among the very large prime contractors. i didn't think it was good for our defense marketplace and therefore for the taxpayer and the war fighter in the long run. >> could you address courtney's follow-up? >> just to be clear -- >> you were saying you trust russia -- >> have to be somewhat? >> i just want to make sure -- >> one more for courtney -- >> that we understand that you said that you believe that the russians are being true to their word with the air strikes in syria, you're taking them -- they're being honest? >> they have said -- well, let
me be very clear with you. there's no contradiction there. they have said they intend to deploy forces in syria and conduct strikes there. and they have done that. and if you're asking me whether i'm surprised at that i'm not because they have been saying now for a couple of weeks they're going to do that and as many in the room have reported they have been accumulating the wherewithal to do it. >> thank you, everybody. >> thank you all very much. appreciate it. >> what a strange day from washington to syria. and let's back up just a moment. the day begins with a russian official, diplomat approaching the american embassy in iraq with a message for the united states. not through moscow or washington. but in iraq. to in effect watch themselves in the air space over syria because the russians intended to carry out air operations over syria today which they have done.
the united states was also carrying out air operations over syria today but it's homs versus aleppo. two different areas and did not conflict. that was ash carter, the secretary of defense, and while he spoke, it's fair to say lacking some of the you aurgenc while he spoke, you were watching this black and white video in the screen next to me. this is gun camera video from the russians showing the world the tar gets they hit in syria today. and the whole nub, the crux of that pentagon briefing was ash carter's point that while they say isis is our common enemy, they are not carrying out air strikes in any areas where isis is known to be. so, we have this odd confluence
and at the center of it, of course, is the huge risk that these two military superpowers are going to have a misunderstanding. that there is going to be a mistake. and secretary carter was saying that talks will soon begin he hopes toward opening up a back channel of communication or a front channel for that matter. opening up communication between the two departments of defense to reduce the chance of mistakes. with that, let's go across town to the white house and kristen welker. kristen, did i get that about right? >> reporter: you got it very right, brian. i would just add a couple of points. defense secretary carter really admonished russia on a number of different points calling the air strikes ill advised if not accompanied by some political transition or plan to bring about a political transition. what does that mean? the u.s. wants assad to go.
russia has a very different viewpoint. they believe that assad is key to defeetding isis. you have the united states saying that these air strike that is russia's launching could, in fact, backfire and that speaks to your point about the targets, the fact that according to defense secretary carter, what the russians have been targeting is opposition forces and not isis. essentially the only cause of these air strikes would be to prop up assad, doing nothing for the ultimate and broader goal of defeetding isis. to your point of deconflicting the air strikes in the sky, ash carter saying that he would be in contact with the russian counterpart in the coming days but of course that might not be quick to avoid an accident that could occur between these two world superpowers. u.s. officials insisting that they're going to continue with the air strikes and they have launched more than 7, 100 air
strikes in syria, in iraq aimed at defeating and destroying and dismantling isis. this situation is complicated today with the russian engagement and to give a broader context, relations between the united states and russia at one of their lowest points since the cold war, brian. that's a reason that this is going to be complicated going forward. >> let's go across town to courtney kubian. you saw her questioning in the front row. courtney, i can't believe you went back at the point because the minute the secretary of defense said he takes the russians at their word it was kind of a moment everyone watching could feel. you gave him a second chance to say, in effect, so you -- that's what you believe? what was his answer in the end about what the russians are saying and doing and the disagreement of those two? >> so he didn't really explain what he meant when he said he
takes the russians at the word because at the beginning of the briefing he said the actions are a logical contradiction between what the russian position is and what they're actually doing in syria so then coming back to say i take them at their word. they said they were connecting air strikes and they're conducting them. but they said it's against isis and it is not. secretary carter himself would not specifically say what opposition forces he believes the u.s. military believe it is russians are targeting with the strikes but he did acknowledge that they're conducting strikes in an area where there is not an isis presence. there's an opposition force presence there. another -- and so, we didn't get any actual details on what the targets were, what -- if any communication aside from this one strange, you know, preliminary notification from the russians that the strikes were a tonight begin, as far as we know there's no further communications between the russian military and the united states military about whether
this is an ongoing operation, whether they're going to continue to strike in that same area, whether they're going to broaden out the spectrum of the strikes, what they're targeting. nothing like that. >> courtney, you and jim miklaszewski cover this man and a number of others in that building every day for a living. for some folks this is the first time to dial in to the still relatively secretary of defense. i think it's fair i found earlier that he didn't have the urgency in his demeanor and delivery that other officials has had and tends to be rather drawl and genuinely he is an academic, a intellen intellectu comes to this from a different footing. >> absolutely. he's taken criticism in the media and pundits for his lack of -- or seeming lack of interest in this enormous problem. i mean, in this building here, when's going on in syria, what's
going on in iraq is in a large -- it's pretty much all encompassing for the press corps and for people in this building for the policymakers, the u.s. military, for the intel. you know? for the people who are in charge of the operations, logistic, the planners. this's the major issue we're following right now. yet, if you look to secretary carter, he is rarely engaging on it. for instance, today, he is hosting a -- forum this afternoon. last week, he had a -- meeting with the facebook coo. he seems to be engaging in more of these business and academic and more, you know, societial issues while we sit here and wonder and pepper the staff, pepper the public affairs officer, spokes people to find out what is his thinking? what does he know about the russian presence in syria? what does he know about what's going on in iraq with isis? we have this vacuum of information on many days because, frankly, we just don't
hear from secretary carter very often. >> our own courtney at the pentagon, thank you very much for checking in with us. and again, secretary of defense said he takes russia at their word. what he meant by that was russia said earlier today we're going to start air operations over syria. and they did. what russia is blurring on is they're going after isis. secretary of defense said rather plainly, there's no evidence of isis forces operating where the russian bombs fell today. one more component of this to the u.n. we go. across town from us here in new york and nbc's ayman mohyeldin, what do you have to add? >> reporter: it comes down right now to the key difference between the u.s. position and the russian position. russia does not make the distinction that we and even the secretary of defense has been making between isis and opposition forces. the way russia is reading the
battlefield inside syria is simple. there's the regime, the legitimate government of the people of syria, opposed to him are all of these terrorist groups and so for them, they're not making that distinction between isis territory and rebel-held or opposition-held territory. what this does is complicate the ability of the u.s. to respond. here's what we know. the united states has defended the opposition rebel groups in the past. they have targeted isis rebel fighters moving towards those opposition fighters. the question now is going to be will the coalition, will the united states and the arab allies pursue the same strategy of trying to protect some of those opposition rebels from air strikes? will they try to neutralize the air force and will they try to discourage the russians from going after them? i think those are questions that the secretary of defense and certainly a lot of the arab allies are faced with in the coming days as this situation continues to unfold, brian. >> ayman mohyeldin at the u.n.
thank you. this is not a good day for u.s. administration trying to combat isis in the nation of syria. we will watch this closely. obviously, all afternoon. and into the evening. for now, about 50 yards to our east, let's go back to thomas roberts. >> thanks so much. yes, a lot of questions remain about what we have been witnessing and covering today. joining us now is texas democrat congressman joaquin castro. thank you for your patience. as you're hearing the developments of what ash carter is able to confirm for us, is the white house's foreign policy on syria and russia wrong? what are your questions for the white house? >> well, i think if you look at the past few years, russia has been helpful in some areas. for example in 2013, they helped us get chemical weapons out of syria and more recently a partner helping us deal with iran so, you know, i think it's important to realize this is day one and all of us in congress i
think are concerned that we didn't have much notice, the united states didn't have much notice about what russia was going to do but i also think that we can't rush to judgment here. we have to make sure that russia is targeting isis, not only today but going to continue the strikes, that that's their purpose and that they're not targeting folks we may be working with or trying to work with in taking out assad and also in taking out isil. that's very -- >> i was going to say, as you serve on the house armed services committee and the foreign affairs committee, if we don't have that conversation or confirm that this information is not russia targeting isis, what's our option? >> well, the most important thing is that we make sure that we goat the table and talk to russia and understand fully what's going on. i have no doubt the white house and the department of defense are collecting the intelligence they can. remember, thomas, again, this
just happened hours ago so it's still very much developing. >> so you don't think that we may have been tipped to vladimir putin's hand from his address at the u.n.? >> no. he -- and i think that's what ash carter spoke to. it is clear that russia wanted to be involved in syria. they had an intention to do these strikes but we have to understand exactly what they have done today. >> we're going to let you get back to work. as always, a pleasure to have you on. thank you for your time. we bring in michael steele, former chair of the republican national committee and a msnbc contributor. michael, what concerns you the most as we hear this and, again, we are waiting to get in all the facts, but what is the biggest concern to you about how the white house and what america's response needs to be if this is not russia targeting isis? >> well, i think it's what we don't know quite honestly,
thomas. the fact of the matter is the administration is caught flat footed again in syria. the russians outflanked them on this ground and they have to figure out how to play catch-up right now. the secretary of defense saying that, you know, i take them at their word, well, okay, yeah. it is obvious. they started the bombing. the fact you don't know or have real repons to the fact at least being reported that they're taking out areas that isis is not present. >> right. >> problematic. the second thing is, you know, the white house said yesterday, josh earnest, you know, they want to make sure to the russians they cannot have a military solution but that's the solution the russians want to bring to prop up their puppet regime with assad. there is no political solution here as far as russians are concerned. this is only a military solution. that's why every opposition force is in play including isis. >> there is no political compromise to be made. >> absolutely. >> about assad. as we were hearing from ash
carter. >> absolutely. >> this is the parallel tracks, the u.s. wants to get rid of isis and bashar al assad and transition in a new government and vladimir putin is saying he wants to get rid of isis and keep bashar al assad. >> exactly. the russians have drawn a red line and the reality for the united states is, are we prepared to cross it with them to engage, you know, with what the russians are doing? my suspicion based on what we have seen so far is not likely. i hope that's not the case but all indications are as the russians have an upper hand right now coming to syria and the united states is playing catch up. >> michael steele, i'll let you go. thank you. stay with us. we're back with much more after this.
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secretary of defense at the pentagon who is confirming what they understand to be the air strike that is happened inside syria today from russia that they did not happen in isis controlled territories. now, this is video that's coming from the russian defense ministry inside their cockpits of different area where is the air strikes happened. again, ash carter saying he wants to be very fact bases and analysis based moving forward and the contrast to the u.s. here is the fact that russia wants to keep assad in power. the u.s. wants to see a transitional government come in while trying to defeat isis but it seems that rush why and the u.s. are at odds on this. that's going to wrap up things for today's show. kate snow picks up the coverage next.
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strikes and heard from the secretary of defense and jm and saying this was not an asack on isis and the man that wants to be the house speaker and the success in his words taking downhill hill. and inside the secret meeting between pope francis and the kentucky court clerk jailed for refusing marriage licenses to gay couples. kim davis' lawyer tells us all about it. russia stunned the world carrying out deadly air strikes inside syria. you can see the dramatic video reportedly shot near the city of homs showing the aftermath of the air strikes. you can see fire and huge plumes of black smoke there billowing into the sky. people screaming, running into buildings in a desperate attempt to avoid those air strikes. we heard the pentagon secretary of defense saying we're not sure if there were any casualties. russian government claims the strikes are a preemptive measure fighting isis but the defense secretary ash carter resnd